The Walking Dead: Michonne, Episode 3 – ‘What We Deserve’ Review (PC)
The first two chapters of The Walking Dead: Michonne took some time getting to the core of what made this mini-series special. Both "In Too Deep" and "No Shelter" had some great introspective moments for Michonne, but the story points driving them along weren't nearly as compelling as what was unfolding in Michonne's head. With the final episode, all of the elements finally pull together to deliver a haunting, gut-wrenching conclusion that gives Michonne more depth, and will have you wondering if we get what we deserve or we deserve what we get.
Telltale Games is no stranger to the drama and struggles of surviving the zombie apocalypse. Its stories in this space have been harrowing and heartbreaking, with only the slightest glimpses of hope managing to peek out from behind the zombie hordes. In the first two seasons of The Walking Dead, those experiences were driven by Lee and Clementine trying to get by with various groups surviving in the wilds. With The Walking Dead: Michonne, the narrative takes a more intrapersonal approach. Though Michonne does indeed interact with a number of other survivors in this interlude, it's really all about her doubts, her demons, and in helping her find some semblance of peace in this terrible world.
In her time away from Alexandria, Michonne has not done too well. The years of being on her own, away from the family she abandoned have taken their toll, and Telltale's use of visions and hallucinations is used to great effect in putting players into her mindset. Coming to grips with the losses of her children and spouse is something she clearly deals with on a daily basis, and as the game progresses, the visions become prolonged and more vivid. Because we're aware these events aren't actually unfolding, it's up to us to help Michonne come to terms with the grim reality of her choices.
Had that been the driving force for the first two episodes, the complete mini-series might have been stronger as a whole. Obviously Telltale needed to craft a narrative around Michonne's (and the player's) growth during this aside, but the rest of the real world just wasn't as interesting as it was ground well-traveled before, even by Telltale. What really started to set Michonne's adventure apart was how it gave us the first real glimpse at the psychological ramifications of decisions we'd made in these games a number of times. Where we'd only see a version of events unfold, and could then reload a save to see something different, Michonne's had to carry the burden of her choices with her without such recourse. Nothing we could do would give her the chance to do it all over again for a better outcome.
That kind of stark truth isn't easy to deal with, and it's certainly not something that's easy to watch unfold. Typically as a player, we're powerful beings in these virtual worlds, and we're capable of doing whatever we want to ensure a positive result. When the result is predestined as a failure from the outset, it creates an atmosphere of frustration. You become angry at Michonne for putting herself (and you) in this position. The entire world takes place in a fail state, and Telltale goes to great lengths to teach players there is nothing you can do but accept the fate that's already been made.
Can you forgive Michonne, and by proxy allow her to forgive herself? Should she spend the rest of her life atoning for an irreversible decision she made years ago? Is it right to give solace to someone who may not have earned it? There are no wrong answers in The Walking Dead: Michonne, but you must be prepared to live with the consequences of your actions just as she has for the past few years.
Telltale's writing is as sharp as its ever been in this episode, and this new perspective on the ways in which survivors in this hellish landscape must cope is at times hard to deal with. That's easy to say at this point about Telltale's Walking Dead games, which have traditionally pushed the right buttons in the anguish machine, but the others never dealt with elements of family, survival, ruthlessness and guilt in such a personal way. Lee and Clementine were wholly new characters that were fundamentally blank canvases, which allowed us to put a lot of our own instincts to work. Michonne's already been realized, but the version of her that exists in the book has never been this vulnerable. Living through her so intimately after knowing next to nothing about her for more than a decade makes the final few choices such a freeing and touching experience.
The lead up to The Walking Dead: Michonne's third episode may not have been as strong as Telltale's previous efforts, but this final installment (and as a result the whole of the story) makes the journey to this point more than worth the early slog. Once Telltale was able to settle in and allow Michonne's own journey shine versus that of the extraneous characters, the mini-series settles in to become one of the developer's most ambitious efforts. Not every company has the will or even the guts to create a game that deals with grieving and depression, let alone to do it quite as successfully as Telltale has here. The Walking Dead: Michonne is tough game to swallow because it makes you think about all of these elements in ways you probably haven't before, but that's also what makes it so great.
This review was completed using a download code of The Walking Dead: Michonne, Episode 3 - "What We Deserve" provided by the publisher for PC.